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Typhoon Pablo after 3 years: The scars have not healed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Arcelle Abeco spoke to the granite wall, a memorial. “Where are you Ronald? Please show up. Your 4 children are waiting for you.”

The 52-year old was hoping her son-in-law will one day show up at their door in Labangal, an urban poor coastal community in this city where a number of fishermen live.

Ronald Ocdinaria was 32 years old when his fishing boat got caught in the middle of Typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) on December 4, 2012.

It was the strongest typhoon to hit Mindanao, and left 1,067 dead and more than 800 missing, including the Gensan fishermen. It destroyed a large swath of agricultural lands in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur. (READ: TIMELINE: Looking back at 2012's Typhoon Pablo)

Ronald perished in the high seas along with 372 or so fishermen from General Santos City and nearby villages of Sarangani.

Only 16 bodies were recovered, and Ronald's was not among them.

'WHERE ARE YOU, SON?' Arcelle Abeco still longs for the son-in-law she lost in the disaster.

'WHERE ARE YOU, SON?' Arcelle Abeco still longs for the son-in-law she lost in the disaster.

Arcelle could not hide her anguish as she and the families of other victims witnessed the unveiling of the memorial for the victims of Typhoon Pablo on Friday, December 4.

She began to sob and then wailed controllably. Her daughter Necel, Ronald's wife, was in Manila, seeking medical help so she could work abroad, leaving Arcelle to take care of her 4 children.

Missing 'tatay'

Marichu Lamanilao, 20, was cheerful when she approached the wall and was even pointing to the name of her father inscribed on the steel plate. And then she began to accept the fact that the monument was a reminder that her father Marcelino was gone. She wiped the tears that began swell in her eyes. 

COMMON SITE. Marichu Lamanilao  welcomes the memorial for lives lost due to Pablo, among them, her father.

COMMON SITE. Marichu Lamanilao welcomes the memorial for lives lost due to Pablo, among them, her father.

Marichu did not finish college and had to work at a mall as contractual promo girl.  She has to support her 5 younger siblings. She took a leave from work to be at the anniversary rites.

Despite the loss of their father, she is thankful they finally have a place to offer prayers and lay flowers. 

Marichu said the expansive bay of Sarangani used to be the grave site of all the fishermen victims of Pablo. Now, she finds solace that they already have a marker for their father.

Like the rest of the widows and orphaned family member of the Pablo victims, they have come to terms with the reality that their loved ones are gone forever.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo, Sister Susan Bolanio OND of the Diocese of Marbel lashed out at the owners of the fishing boats for allowing their crew to leave for the high seas despite the forecasts of a then impending super storm.

Now, she said most of the families have moved on.

IN MEMORY. A granite wall bearing the names of Pablo casualties.

IN MEMORY. A granite wall bearing the names of Pablo casualties.

Some have not. 

Six-year old Christine Paje was 3 years old when her father disappeared in the high seas.  She was sobbing very hard while placing a chrysanthemum and lighting a candle at the foot of the granite wall. Behind her was a huge discarded anchor. Her mother Christy, who was wearing dark glasses, was also crying.

Unsung heroes

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the city government will continue to look after the welfare of the children left behind by the presumed dead fishermen.

“We will try to extend scholarships to the children of your husbands,” he said at the ceremony on Friday.

The mayor said the monument at the city plaza is dedicated to Pablo victims and all other fishermen who lost their lives in the high seas.

“This marker is not only a symbol and in memory of those who perished during Super Typhoon Pablo. It also includes the many others who met the same fate before them,” Rivera said in a statement.

ASSISTANCE. General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera assures the families of the Pablo casualties that the city government will assist the children of the presumed dead fishermen.

ASSISTANCE. General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera assures the families of the Pablo casualties that the city government will assist the children of the presumed dead fishermen.

He said it is also to remind the people how “hard, difficult and dangerous is it to set sail in order to earn a living.”

“Your husbands, sons, brothers, relatives and friends are the true and unsung heroes of our city – of our fishing industry,” he said. Rappler.com